The 2008 presidential election was the strangest such election in the last 40 odd years. It simply did not follow any historical trends which made it very hard to predict. It is only from the results of previous elections that we can predict future ones and when the results do not follow previous results then the analyst will usually get it wrong like we did. For one thing, we did not think that the American people were ready for a black President before we elected a female one. After all, females are 51.4% of the voting age population while black Americans are only 11.4% of that population. We are glad to say we were wrong about that assumption because it did show that race relations have improved tremendously since the era of the Jim Crow laws.
Still based on previous elections John McCain should have won handily in terms of electoral votes. Presidential elections are won in the so-called battleground states as illustrated in Presidential Elections in a Nutshell. Once a Republican has the usual red states, all he needs are the Republican leaning purple states of North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Ohio to achieve a tie in electoral votes. To win the Republican must pick off one of the Democrat leaning purple states of Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin or New Mexico. George Bush won in 2004 by picking off Nevada, Iowa and New Mexico. He won in 2000 by picking off Nevada and New Hampshire.
Obviously that is not what happened in 2008. Barack Obama won by holding all of Democrat and leaning Democrat states and picking off Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina plus the red state of Indiana. So what happened in these six states that they switched sides? One theory is that the Obama campaign managed to greatly increase the turnout of minority voters and voters under 30 years old. Perhaps they did manage that in some states but all we care about is what happened in the battleground states since the results in red and blue states would still have been the same. We have prepared a table of the battleground states plus Indiana using voter turnout figures from the census bureau for the 2004 and 2008 elections by various demographic groups.
2008 in 1000's
2004 in 1000's
STATE BLACK HISP 18-24 25-44 BLACK HISP 18-24 25-44 Indiana 219 36 222 955 198 41 232 868 North Carolina 919 77 362 1,566 784 27 310 1,327 Missouri 336 20 304 912 324 35 269 965 Virginia 686 74 311 1,262 477 70 215 1,091 Florida 985 1227 693 2,246 919 824 581 2,173 Colorado 81 195 231 808 56 165 212 758 Ohio 630 74 581 1,757 586 90 599 1,861 Nevada 105 119 85 357 56 72 83 291 Iowa 42 20 147 470 23 12 183 474 New Hampshire 4 8 72 230 1 5 54 241 Wisconsin 145 66 267 901 133 67 301 1,059 New Mexico 20 289 69 239 23 276 74 284 TOTALS 4,172 2,205 3,344 11,703 3,580 1,684 3,113 11,392
|State||~ Black||~ Hisp||~ 18-24||~ 25-44||~ Totals||Margin||Differs|
When the figure in the differs column is plus, these demographic groups did explain the result in that particular state. In particular, the increase in the black vote almost by itself explains why Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia flipped to the Democrats. The big increase in the Hispanic voters explains what happened in Florida although Hispanics in the Miami area do tend to vote Republican if the are from Cuban families. It is interesting to note that these groups actually decreased in Missouri which allowed McCain to hang on to that purple state. What is puzzling is that these groups also decreased in turnout in Ohio and yet Obama won handily.
All of these groups together explain why McCain did not carry Nevada. Nevada has been tending more Democrat as the minority population has increased significantly and as liberal voters flee the high taxes in California for the no state income tax in Nevada but still take their voting habits with them even though those habits are what caused the high taxes in California. It would appear that Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico may have simply gotten out of reach for Republicans.
The 2010 Census will likely add 6 more electoral votes to red states at the expense of blue states so this could help offset negative demographics for the Republicans in the purple states. The Republicans cannot win the Presidency if they lose any of the purple states that tend Republican with the possible exception of Colorado. They would need to carry New Hampshire or Nevada to make up for losing Colorado.
What happened in Colorado, New Hampshire and Ohio in 2008? New Hampshire voted for Obama because its voters were enamored of the idea of having a black President. We suspect that factor also contributed to what happened in Indiana, Colorado and Ohio as well but only time will tell if that is a correct hypothesis. If it is incorrect and these states are simply becoming more Democrat then the Republicans could be in a world of hurt in Presidential elections from this point on.